pizza with caramelized onions, gorgonzola and pecans
I’ve been trying to find a good way to tell you about this pizza – but haven’t found a clever way. I’ve been feeling rather un-clever, which might have something to do with a dire need for a short break from work. I did some quick math in my head and realized it’s been like eight months (8!) without a vacation – I need to get some time to regenerate, and I need to do it soon!
So I’ll get right to the point – like my last post, I adapted this recipe from several sources: Deb over at Smitten Kitchen – and a combination of ideas from Epicurious.com. I had a friend coming over for dinner and I wanted to impress and please. I envisioned us having a dazzling conversation over pizza, salad and wine. I used Deb’s dough and the mustard part, but improvised with the onions, Gorgonzola and pecans. And people, if I had any figs on hand, they would have gone right on top of the onions! So, if you do make it, see if the figs work – I bet they’ll be excellent.
Deb notes that if your yeast/water blend doesn’t foam, start with a new batch. I gave this practice three tries and on the fourth, I gave up, and threw my foam-less yeast mix into flour and held my breath. My dough rose beautifully and was delicious – I think the foaming is always a good sign, but I was having issues with it that day and I wasn’t about to take no for an answer.
Was the result delicious – yes! Was it easy to make? Again, yes. I know I keep claiming these recipes are easy, and I swear to you they are. The only thing with this pizza is that it takes time. Short on time after work? Make the dough the night before and let it rise overnight in the fridge. Cook your onions on another day and throw the whole thing together the following night. With a little planning, it’s totally doable and even more so, you’ll be rested in time for dinner to provide your companions with your usual wit and sparkle.
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (a 1/4-ounce package)
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°F)
1 1/2 all-purpose flour (set aside another 1/4 cup in case you need to work in a bit more)
1 large egg
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
4 large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3-4 tbsp gorgonzola cheese
handful of pecans, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Stir together yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let stand about 5 minutes, until foamy. (Deb writes that If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast. I tried three batches (THREE!) and none of them foamed. I finally gave up on the fourth and just mixed in the unfoamy yeast liquid and it actually turned out okay. Not sure why foaming wasn’t happening for me, but at least not all was lost.)
Put 1 1/2 cups flour in a large bowl, then make a well in center and add yeast mixture there. Stir together the egg, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt with a whisk or fork. Add this egg mixture to yeast/flour mixture and mix with your hand, gradually incorporating flour (I like to fold it in from the side going around in a circle), until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead slowly. If you need additional flour, you have set aside your 1/4 and may add to dough, as necessary, until the dough is pliable and smooth. Kneading usually takes me 3-5 minutes. Be sure not to knead with too much vigor or you can make the dough too tough. Oil your hands and coat the ball of dough you have now created. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, letting it rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. At times, I like to heat my oven to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, turn it off, and place the bowl with dough on top of the stove – the heats helps it rise faster. Alternatively, you can make the dough in advance and let it rise for 12-24 hours in the refrigerator (this works well for weeknight meals).
While the dough is rising, saute your onions on (at first) high heat with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and reduce heat to low. Place a circle of parchment paper on top of your onions and cook slowly for about an hour to an hour and a half (stirring occasionally). [Warning, do NOT taste your caramelized onions once you cook them – tasting will likely result in your consumption of at least half if not all the onion topping! Not that it happened to me, or anything).
Preheat the oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
Flatten the dough out gently by kneading it on a floured surface. Shape the dough flat on a large heavy baking sheet* into a rectangle, and brush mustard evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Crimp the tiny portion of the edge. Spread onions evenly over mustard and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Remove pizza from oven. At this point, add the soft gorgonzola by small spoonfuls around pizza. Use the cheese somewhat sparingly as gorgonzola is a pungent, powerful cheese and can easily overtake the onions. You want the flavors to complement, not dominate. Sprinkle with finely chopped pecan. Return to oven for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and if you like, drizzle a tiny bit of good balsamic vinegar over it. Sprinkle fresh thyme leaves. Cut immediately and enjoy while hot.